Saturday, August 14, 2010

Public Art: The One Percent Solution

Years ago, I was told of Los Angeles' one percent rule on public art. I've just now looked it up: In 1989, the city passed a law allocating one percent of all costs of capital improvements to commission public artwork.

That's why so many of the business office buildings have street-level sculpture or fountains. The city's Cultural Affairs Dept. keeps records and even a pool of pre-approved artists who might accept commissions.

Here's an example, which I chose only because the artist has my grandmother's last name: Tim Doyle's Cutting Corners, installed 2003 at Wilshire near Bundy.

What do others feel about this policy? The 1% art of Los Angeles can feel cold and uninviting. Beautiful fountains--but often no pedestrian traffic enjoying them. Is it the location which discourages public enjoyment of the public art, or does the legislated origin of the art make it less...lovable? That's all so subjective, it must be clear that I'm just talking through my hat. I'm actually very happy that cities have such policies, because I doubt that many businesses would include public art in their budgets otherwise.

None of which applies to the piece at right, titled Cradle...except that it's in Santa Monica, and Santa Monica also has a 1% public art policy for capital improvements.

Ball Nogues Studio created it for an exterior wall of the new Santa Monica Place, facing Colorado Blvd. Construction crews are still working on this section of parking lot--that's what the commotion at the bottom is. The piece was commissioned by the City of Santa Monica and is 39 feet wide.

Here's a 2:37 minute video of time lapse photography of the installation, which is nearly as exciting as watching grass grow.

Here's what the Argonaut says about Cradle:

Cradle is called an aggregation of mirror-polished, stainless steel spheres, and the sculpture operates structurally like an enormous Newton’s Cradle — the ubiquitous toy that can be found on the desktops of corporate executives. Each ball is suspended by a cable from a point on the wall and locked in position by a combination of gravity and neighboring balls. As a whole, the balls imply an articulated surface suggestive of foam or sea life, said Ball Nogues Studio representatives.


Anonymous said...

"Each ball is suspended by a cable from a point on the wall and locked in position by a combination of gravity and neighboring balls." Well, that was the concept, but that's not what really happened. The whole thing is secretly welded together as a single structure on the upper sides of the spheres where you can't see it.

Vix said...

Actually, public safety and the possibility of huge lawsuits should any ball give, or should an earthquake strike, makes me believe that you are telling the truth.